Monday, January 30, 2017

News & Listings: 30 January 2017

Ayckbourn Plays This Week & Coming Soon
6 - 11 February: Henceforward... at the Royal & Derngate, Northampton (directed by Alan Ayckbourn)
13 - 18 February: Henceforward... at the Theatre Royal, Windsor (directed by Alan Ayckbourn)

News Round Up:
> Alan Ayckbourn's 60th anniversary at the Stephen Joseph Theatre is being celebrated as part of the eight-day Inner Circle event at the SJT in Scarborough. The week will be book-ended by two special gala events featuring Alan Ayckbourn and participants will also get the chance to see both his forthcoming productions. The week offers a behind the scenes look at the SJT, offering a chance to join the theatre during tech week for a new play and to meet the people who bring the plays to the stage. Further details can be found at the SJT website here.
> The tour of Alan Ayckbourn's acclaimed revival of his classic 1987 play Henceforward... moves to the Royal & Derngate, Northampton from 6 - 11 February, followed by the Theatre Royal Windsor (13 - 18 February) and Cambridge Arts Theatre (22 - 25 February).
> There is a new regular feature on the blog in which, every Friday, we mark the 60th anniversary of Alan Ayckbourn joining the Library Theatre in Scarborough with a year-by-year feature.
Unseen Ayckbourn: Illustrated Edition by Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist Simon Murgatroyd is now available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. Fully updated for 2017, this book explores the unseen, withdrawn and unpublished works of Alan Ayckbourn with illustrations for the first time.

Friday, January 27, 2017

60 Years At The SJT: 1960 - 1961

2017 marks the 60th anniversary of Alan Ayckbourn joining the Library Theatre, Scarborough, in 1957. Alan has been indelibly associated with the company since that time as actor, writer, director and Artistic Director.
To mark this anniversary, the blog will be running a weekly feature highlighting each year's significant achievements and events relating to Alan Ayckbourn alongside notable photos.

60 Years At The SJT: 1960 - 1961
1959 was a year of huge significance for Alan Ayckbourn in which his professional playwriting career began and he had two very successful plays produced at the Library Theatre.
1960 would not follow the same pattern.
Following the success of The Square Cat and Love After All, Alan was commissioned late in 1960 to co-write a Christmas play with the theatre's first resident playwright, David Campton, based on the famous novel The Borrowers.
David and The Borrowers connection dropped out of the equation very quickly and Alan set to work on the piece alone; although initially lacking what one might consider a vital piece of information....
“Stephen [Joseph] just said: “Um… will you be putting any ballet into your play?” And I said “WHAT!” and he said: “Ballet.” Well I pointed out that I didn’t write ballet but Stephen just said I should.”
Stanley Page (centre) & members of the British Dance
Drama Theatre in Dad's Tale.
Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn
Stephen had made a deal for a co-production between the Library Theatre and the British Dance Drama Drama Theatre, which had performed in Scarborough during the summer. Unfortunately, the company was based in Birmingham and Alan had to allow for the fact the two companies would not meet until the dress rehearsals. It was, it can be said with confidence, a challenging production.
"The two [companies] never actually met each other till the final rehearsal. This was also the last time I played multiple roles. I spent the evening rushing on and off, changing moustaches. The play had its moments, thanks to a witty production by Clifford Williams and a rich central performance by Stanley Page as Dad. It was my first children's show. It opened in Scarborough just before Christmas and, including the director, played to an audience of five with an average age of forty. It was my first taste of theatrical failure. I was very depressed and gave up writing for several months."
Alan Ayckbourn (centre) in Dad's Tale.
Copyright; Alan Ayckbourn
The play was a huge flop for the company and - following another seasonal failure with Christmas V Mastermind in 1962 - Alan would not write another family play for 27 years until Mr A's Amazing Maze Plays in 1988.
Throughout 1960 and 1961, Alan was predominantly employed as an actor with the Library Theatre company, but come 1961 another string was added to his bow and his future career path became clearer.
For the summer 1961 season, Alan was given his first professional directing job by Stephen Joseph with a production of Patrick Hamilton's classic play Gaslight at the Library Theatre. It was something Alan enthusiastically approached, perhaps realising his future might not lie as an actor - and something which his mentor had possibly also realised.
A publicity postcard for Theatre In The Round featuring
David Jarrett & Hazel Burt in Alan Ayckbourn's
directorial debut Gaslight.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
"Stephen Joseph gradually encouraged me to direct in order to put a spoke in the wheels of my acting career, but that is a poisoned chalice for an actor; if they get the taste for directing, they slowly tire of acting because directing is global and you have a view of the entire production."
The production of Gaslight drew plaudits for Alan with The Stage newspaper's review noting "This production, by Alan Ayckbourn, is polished, building with authority from its quiet opening to the chilling of spines as the tension mounts towards hysteria."
Hazel Burt in Gaslight.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
Following his playwriting debut in 1959, it marked another hugely significant moment in Alan Ayckbourn's career in the theatre. From this point on, Alan would increasingly concentrate on his directing and writing with his acting career gradually being phased out by 1964.
"I became more and more objective about what was happening as a director and a less objective actor. I was a waste of space as an actor by the end of it!"
By the end of 1961, just six years into his professional life, Alan had been a stage manager, actor, writer and director. And his journey was really only just beginning.
But in 1962, he was about to take his first significant break away from Scarborough and it was not clear at the time whether he would return.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Alan Ayckbourn: Radio Producer

A rarely heard side of Alan Ayckbourn's long career is currently playing on the BBC iPlayer.
Between 1965 and 1970, Alan was employed as a Radio Drama Producer for the BBC and was based in Leeds working with the renowned producer Alfred Bradley, who was a great champion of northern writing.
Despite this period having a significant impact on his future career and influencing him as director and writer, it is not a well-documented area of his career and very little information is known about it.
During these six years, Alan directed dozens of radio plays and one of them, Roy Clarke's The Events At Black Tor, can currently be heard on the BBC iPlayer.
The six half-hour episodes tells a gothic horror story set on the North Yorkshire Moors in the vein of the classic film The Wicker Man. The first episode can be found here with all episodes here. They will be on BBC iPlayer for approximately three more weeks.
If you would like to learn more about Alan Ayckbourn's career at the BBC, further details can be found at his official website by clicking here. It is a fascinating area of his career as it is not widely known, Alan had relatively little contact with the theatre during much of this period - between 1965 and 1970, he wrote just four plays.
Very little is documented of Alan's time as a radio producer and there have been very few repeats of any of the productions he directed. This makes The Events At Black Tor a fascinating insight into such a little-known part of his professional life.

Monday, January 23, 2017

News & Listings: 23 January 2017

Ayckbourn Plays This Week & Coming Soon
Until 28 January: Henceforward... at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford (directed by Alan Ayckbourn)
24 - 28 January: Roundelay at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield (Amateur, produced by Dick & Lottie)
6 - 11 February: Henceforward... at the Royal & Derngate, Northampton (directed by Alan Ayckbourn)

News Round Up:
> Alan Ayckbourn's 60th anniversary at the Stephen Joseph Theatre is being celebrated as part of the eight-day Inner Circle event at the SJT in Scarborough. The week will be book-ended by two special gala events featuring Alan Ayckbourn and participants will also get the chance to see both his forthcoming productions. The week offers a behind the scenes look at the SJT, offering a chance to join the theatre during tech week for a new play and to meet the people who bring the plays to the stage. Further details can be found at the SJT website here.
> A short tour of Alan Ayckbourn's acclaimed revival of his classic 1987 play Henceforward... has now opened at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford. The play is directed by Alan Ayckbourn and stars Bill Champion, Jacqueline King, Jessie Hart, Nigel Hastings and Laura Matthews. The tour will also visit the Royal & Derngate, Northampton (6 - 11 February), the Theatre Royal Windsor (13 - 18 February) and Cambridge Arts Theatre (22 - 25 February).
> The first amateur production of Alan Ayckbourn's Roundelay is taking place from tomorrow until Saturday at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield. The play which comprises of five interlinked plays, the order of which is determined randomly each night, is being presented by Dick & Lottie, the UK's only amateur company dedicated to the works of Alan Ayckbourn. Further details can be found at www.dickandlottie.com.
> Don't forget there's a new regular feature on the blog in which, every Friday, we mark the 60th anniversary of Alan Ayckbourn joining the Library Theatre in Scarborough with a year-by-year feature.
Unseen Ayckbourn: Illustrated Edition by Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist Simon Murgatroyd is now available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. Fully updated for 2017, this book explores the unseen, withdrawn and unpublished works of Alan Ayckbourn with illustrations for the first time.

Sponsoring A Play On Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website
If you have a favourite Ayckbourn play, there's opportunity to be associated with it via Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website. Every Play on the site is open to sponsorship for a nominal fee - to help with the costs of running the website and domain costs - and which gives the sponsor (individuals only, not businesses) a credit on every page relating to the specific play. You can find out more about sponsoring a play and which plays are still available by clicking here.

Friday, January 20, 2017

60 Years at the SJT: 1959

2017 marks the 60th anniversary of Alan Ayckbourn joining the Library Theatre, Scarborough, in 1957. Alan has been indelibly associated with the company since that time as actor, writer, director and Artistic Director.
To mark this anniversary, the blog will be running a weekly feature highlighting each year's significant achievements and events relating to Alan Ayckbourn alongside notable photos.

60 Years At The SJT: 1959
In December 1958, Alan Ayckbourn had been commissioned to write his first play for the Library Theatre in Scarborough by its Artistic Director, Stephen Joseph.
It was his first professional commission and, at the time, he considered himself an actor and had no ambition to become a playwright; he essentially just wanted better roles and saw writing them for himself as a means to achieving that end.
Before he would begin writing though, he was due to embark on the Library Theatre's winter tour in which productions from the previous summer and winter's repertory season would be toured to several towns without municipal theatres around the UK alongside several new productions.
The most notable of these was a play called The Birthday Party. It had opened in the West End to disastrous reviews in 1958 and closed soon afterwards, leaving the playwright despondent about both the play and his writing skills.
However, Stephen Joseph was aware of the playwright and interested in his work, so he invited him to stage the play as he intended with the Studio Theatre Company. The playwright was Harold Pinter.

Harold Pinter reading The Birthday party with David Campton
and Dona Martyn from the Studio Theatre Ltd company.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
This production was only the second ever production of The Birthday Party and it marked the playwright's debut as a professional director. Although staged on a limited budget, in-the-round and with obvious limitations, Pinter would say the production - and Stephen Joseph's belief in him - restored his faith in both the piece and his abilities.
Cast into the play was Alan Ayckbourn as Stanley and thus began a truly memorable experience for the young actor - and something completely unlike anything he had experienced before.
"We read the play and thought he [Pinter] was barking mad. It made absolutely no sense whatever. I can only compare it with the first time I heard Stravinsky, when I thought 'This man's got a tin ear.' But what helped us was that the author was directing it. And he was a mixture of an actor and an extremely nice guy and passionate in his belief that his play would work."
Alan Ayckbourn playing Stanley in The Birthday Party.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
This belief in his own work also led to one of the most famous stories regarding Alan and Pinter, which Alan has frequently recounted.
"I remember asking Pinter about my character. Where does he come from? Where is he going to? What can you tell me about him that will give me more understanding? And Harold just said 'Mind your own fucking business. Concentrate on what's there.'"
The experience and the reception to the play, which played at Birmingham and Leicester during the tour, was 'electric' according to Alan Ayckbourn and, there is no doubt, his experiences with Pinter had a profound influence on him.
It was during the tour that Alan and his fiancee began work on his first professional commission for the Library Theatre's summer season. For his first play was a collaboration with Christine Roland and was one of the reasons it was written under the pseudonym of Roland Allen; combining both their names.
"It was untypical of me in that firstly, it was written over quite a long period, and secondly, it was written with a great deal of help from Christine, structurally, not dialogue-wise. She was very helpful. We talked out: 'What if ... ? What if ... ? What if ... ? How about trying it this way round?' And it was very much an exercise, in the sense that we were trying to get effects.”
A publicity postcard for the Library Theatre, Scarborough,
featuring Alan Ayckbourn in The Square Cat.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
Although Stephen Joseph obviously had a degree of confidence in the new playwright, the play was not initially scheduled in early drafts for the Library Theatre's season and was only inserted in the schedule later, presumably after Stephen had approved the piece.
The Square Cat was a farce in which a mother sneaks off to a country home to meet her idol, the rock 'n' roll star Jerry Wattis - in reality a mild mannered man looking for a quiet life away from the fame - and is followed by her family. It was also, unashamedly, a star vehicle for Alan.
Although one has to question the wisdom of a playwright who writes a role for himself which involves singing, dancing and guitar-playing. None of which he could do...
Alan Ayckbourn in a rarely seen image from The Square Cat.
Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn
“It was my first appearance on stage in a play of my own. Unashamedly (and rather foolishly) I had given myself the lion's share of everything. From my first entrance at the end of Act One till the final curtain line at the end of Act Three quite apart from singing, dancing and playing the guitar - none of which I could do - I had all the laugh lines and got the girl. Well, two of them actually. I made £47 in royalties. The most money I'd ever made in my life.”
Thus the playwriting career of Alan Ayckbourn was born. Helped, not least, by the fact the play was a great success for the Library Theatre, being the second most well-attended and profitable play of the season.
Such was its success that Stephen Joseph immediately commissioned Alan for a second play, Love After All, which premiered on December at the Library Theatre. Whilst not as notable as The Square Cat, it was similarly popular and it appeared a successful playwriting career had been launched.
Or perhaps not. 1960 was about to give Alan his first taste of playwriting failure.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Celebrate Alan Ayckbourn's 60th Anniversary at the SJT with an Exclusive Event

2017 marks the 60th anniversary of Alan Ayckbourn joining the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough.
This will be marked as part of the Inner Circle, a special event running at the theatre from 10 - 17 September 2017 celebrating the past, present and future of the theatre most associated with Alan Ayckbourn.
The event will be book-ended by two special Gala events with Alan Ayckbourn marking his long association with the company as well as the chance to see his latest play and his revival of one of his classic '70s plays.
The eight-day event will explore the history and future of the company with events ranging from discussion of the man who started it all and most inspired Alan Ayckbourn, Stephen Joseph, to seeing how his legacy of new writing is still central to the company by going behind the scenes of and seeing the world premiere of a new play by an exciting new writer.
A spokesman for Alan Ayckbourn said this promised to be a special week for fans of both Alan Ayckbourn and the theatre which launched his writing and director careers and which continues to promote the new writing legacy of Alan's most influential mentor, Stephen  Joseph.
“It seems very apt that as Alan Ayckbourn celebrates the 60th anniversary of his association with the Stephen Joseph Theatre, that the company is celebrating the past, present and future with this exciting event. Not only will it mark Alan's long-standing connection to the SJT with two special gala events, but also look back at the man who inspired him, Stephen Joseph, as well as the exciting new direction the SJT is taking as it moves forward under the new Executive and Artistic Directors, Steve Freeman and Paul Robinson. Whether you're interested in Alan Ayckbourn, the Stephen Joseph Theatre or just want to see behind the scenes at a major regional theatre, this will be an event not to be missed."
Places are strictly limited on this exclusive event which will include two gala events with Alan Ayckbourn, three performances at the SJT, and two Inner Circle evening meals alongside workshops, talks and other events going behind the scenes of the theatre during tech week for a new play. You'll also hear from writers, directors and designers and meet the people who bring the plays to the stage and who run a major regional theatre.
By supporting the Inner Circle, you not only get a chance for an exciting week being the scenes, but are also supporting the SJT's commitment to new writing, according to Executive Director Steve Freeman.
"By becoming part of the Inner Circle, you will make a crucial investment in new writing, nurturing promising talent and commissioning work, and you’ll get exclusive access to the season’s biggest events at the SJT."
A special early bird offer gives substantial discounts for anyone booking before 30 March 2017 and further details about how to book alongside more details of the Inner Circle event can be found at www.sjt.uk.com and Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Alan Ayckbourn's Roundelay in Huddersfield

The first amateur production of Alan Ayckbourn's 2014 play Roundelay takes place this month in Huddersfield.
Dick & Lottie - the only amateur company in the UK dedicated to Alan Ayckbourn's plays - will be tackling the play, which is notable for being different each night.
First seen at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in 2014, Roundelay consists of five short inter-related plays, the order of which are determined randomly by the audience each evening. This means there are a possible 120 permutations of the play!
Audience members are invited to draw five coloured balls just prior to each evening's performance which determines the order of the plays, affecting how the audience perceive the characters, the events in their lives and their motivations.
Tanya Phillips in rehearsals for Roundelay
This is a hugely ambitious undertaking by the company which is always determined to present the plays as the playwright intended - even if it means none of the actors will know who will be first on stage until 20 minutes before the show!
Richard McArtney and Mike Casey in rehearsals for Roundelay
The production is directed by John Cotgrave and the company has now performed 30 of Alan Ayckbourn's 81 plays since being formed in 2004.
The company features Mike Casey, John Cotgrave, Joe Geddes, Hannah Head, Richard McArtney, Tanya Phillips, Laura Roberts and Maria Sykes with music by Paul Chamberlain and set design by Richard McArtney.
Hannah Head during rehearsals for Roundelay
Roundelay can be seen at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield, from Tuesday 24 to Saturday 28 January at 7.15pm with a 2pm Saturday matinee. Tickets are priced at £12 (£7 concessions).
The production will then tour to the New Wimbledon Theatre, London, from Tuesday 21 to Saturday 25 February at 7.15pm. Bookings for and further details about Roundelay can be made via www.dickandlottie.com.
Laura Roberts & John Cotgrave in rehearsals for Roundelay
Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website is the patron of Dick & Lottie and an article by Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist, Simon Murgatroyd, looking at Roundelay and Dick & Lottie's other productions in 2017 can be found here.

Monday, January 16, 2017

News & Listings: 16 January 2017

Ayckbourn Plays This Week & Coming Soon
19 - 28 January: Henceforward... at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford (directed by Alan Ayckbourn)
24 - 28 January: Roundelay at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield (Amateur, produced by Dick & Lottie)
6 - 11 February: Henceforward... at the Royal & Derngate, Northampton (directed by Alan Ayckbourn)

News Round Up:
> Alan Ayckbourn's acclaimed revival of his classic 1987 play Henceforward... begins a short UK tour this week at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford. Previously seen at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, last summer, the play is directed by Alan Ayckbourn and stars Bill Champion, Jacqueline King, Jessie Hart, Nigel Hastings and Laura Matthews. The tour will also visit the Royal & Derngate, Northampton (6 - 11 February), the Theatre Royal Windsor (13 - 18 February) and Cambridge Arts Theatre (22 - 25 February).
> The first amateur production of Alan Ayckbourn's Roundelay is taking place from 24 - 28 January at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield. The play which comprises of five interlinked plays, the order of which is determined randomly each night, is being presented by Dick & Lottie, the UK's only amateur company dedicated to the works of Alan Ayckbourn. Further details can be found at www.dickandlottie.com.
> Don't forget there's a new regular feature on the blog in which, every Friday, we mark the 60th anniversary of Alan Ayckbourn joining the Library Theatre in Scarborough with a year-by-year feature.
> Unseen Ayckbourn: Illustrated Edition by Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist Simon Murgatroyd is now available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. Fully updated for 2017, this book explores the unseen, withdrawn and unpublished works of Alan Ayckbourn with illustrations for the first time.

Sponsoring A Play On Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website
If you have a favourite Ayckbourn play, there's opportunity to be associated with it via Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website. Every Play on the site is open to sponsorship for a nominal fee - to help with the costs of running the website and domain costs - and which gives the sponsor (individuals only, not businesses) a credit on every page relating to the specific play. You can find out more about sponsoring a play and which plays are still available by clicking here.

Friday, January 13, 2017

60 Years At The SJT: 1958

2017 marks the 60th anniversary of Alan Ayckbourn joining the Library Theatre, Scarborough, in 1957. Alan has been indelibly associated with the company since that time as actor, writer, director and Artistic Director.
To mark this anniversary, the blog will be running a weekly feature highlighting each year's significant achievements and events relating to Alan Ayckbourn alongside notable photos.

60 Years At The SJT: 1958
Alan Ayckbourn had joined the Library Theatre company in Scarborough in 1957, but following the summer season, he had worked as an actor during the winter at the Oxford Playhouse.
However, the Library Theatre's Artistic Director, Stephen Joseph, asked Alan to return to Scarborough the following summer with the promise of more acting roles as well as increased stage management responsibility. Alan agreed and this, essentially, laid the foundations for his long-standing commitment and dedication to the company and the town.
Stephen Joseph & Alan Ayckbourn (back row, centre)
with the 1958 Library Theatre company.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
Alan stayed with the company for both its summer and winter seasons appearing in three of the six summer plays and all three of the winter plays; the winter seasons at the Library Theatre had only been launched the previous year and demonstrated the town's early support of the company.
His first play of the season, Captain Carvallo, was notable for it being the first time he acted alongside Christine Roland; a new actress to the company who Alan would marry the following year.
At the time, Alan was already engaged though to a stage manger with the company, although it was not to be a long engagement. Alan's biographer, Paul Allen, writes of the story that the engagement was called off during the 1958 autumn tour and that the next day, partly persuaded as a means to get the company publicity, Alan proposed to Christine with the same ring!
Alan Ayckbourn & Christine Roland in Captain Carvallo.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
Alan and Christine appeared in four plays together that year and had became close friends as a result of this. She accepted the proposal with them moving into a small flat for Christmas.
Professionally, this season saw Alan moving into more than the walk-on parts of the previous summer and the start of some good notices in the press; although Alan himself has always considered himself as purely an able actor.
"I lacked an awful lot of technique, but what I lacked in technique, I made up an awful lot in sincerity and because I knew better than to show my lack of technique, I kept very still on stage. I got a lot of reviews: “His lizard-like stillness” and of course, as one knows later on, if you stop waving your arms around and you just sit still, just flick your eyes round, you can pull focus that way just as well."
After playing Private Gross in Captain Carvallo, he was Constable Williams in Dial M For Murder and then appearing as the valet, Pasquin, in Marivaux's Love And Chance, he got his first notable review with the Scarborough company from the Yorkshire Post.
"Mr Alan Ayckbourn enjoys every moment of his promotion from valet to master but never believes in it that his performance is a constant joy."
HIs work during the summer season led to Alan being promoted to full-time actor for the winter season; although he undoubtedly also helped with stage management given the nature of the company at the time.
The increase of roles also led to increased notice in reviews. He played Alfred in Jean Jacques Bernard's Martine ("handled with carefully rough edges by Alan Ayckbourn"), Eric In David Campton' Ring Of Roses ("Alan Ayckbourn burbled amusingly into oblivion") and Abrahm in Kataev's Squaring The Circle ("Alan Ayckbourn, as Abrahm, is also slightly too enthusiastic").
An illustration by J. Morton Stanley for the Birmingham Weekly
Post of the play Martine with Alan Ayckbourn (second from left).
Copyright: Birmingham Weekly Post
But this was not enough for the young actor, he felt he was capable of much more than the roles he was being offered and, following Ring of Roses, he made his now famous approach to Stephen Joseph.
"I was in a play directed by Stephen and I'd been complaining about the quality of the script. So Stephen challenged me to write a better one - on condition that I took the main role myself. He was a wise man. It's one thing to write a play and throw it to a bunch of actors to die in, but quite another to appear in it oneself"
Alan Ayckbourn (left) in Ring Of Roses, the play which
launched an extraordinary writing career.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
The result was Alan's first play, The Square Cat, but that's part of the next article alongside his experiences with a extraordinary young writer / director, who came to Scarborough during Christmas to direct one of his own plays with Alan appearing in a lead role.
Christmas 1958 would lead to an pivotal six month period for Alan Ayckbourn and the story of how he went from being directed by Harold Pinter to writing his first play.

Monday, January 9, 2017

News & Listings: 9 January 2017

Ayckbourn Plays This Week & Coming Soon
19 - 28 January: Henceforward... at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford (directed by Alan Ayckbourn)
24 - 28 January: Roundelay at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield (Amateur, produced by Dick & Lottie)

News Round Up:
> The first amateur production of Alan Ayckbourn's Roundelay is taking place from 24 - 28 January at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield. The play which comprises of five interlinked plays, the order of which is determined randomly each night, is being presented by Dick & Lottie, the UK's only amateur company dedicated to the works of Alan Ayckbourn. Further details can be found at www.dickandlottie.com.
> Don't forget there's a new regular feature on the blog in which, every Friday, we mark the 60th anniversary of Alan Ayckbourn joining the Library Theatre in Scarborough with a year-by-year feature.
> The end-stage UK tour of Alan Ayckbourn's acclaimed revival of Henceforward... begins on 19 January at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford. The tour will also visit the Royal & Derngate, Northampton (6 - 11 February), the Theatre Royal Windsor (13 - 18 February) and Cambridge Arts Theatre (22 - 25 February).

Sponsoring A Play On Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website
If you have a favourite Ayckbourn play, there's opportunity to be associated with it via Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website. Every Play on the site is open to sponsorship for a nominal fee - to help with the costs of running the website and domain costs - and which gives the sponsor (individuals only, not businesses) a credit on every page relating to the specific play. You can find out more about sponsoring a play and which plays are still available by clicking here.

Friday, January 6, 2017

60 Years At The SJT: 1957

2017 marks the 60th anniversary of Alan Ayckbourn joining the Library Theatre, Scarborough, in 1957. Alan has been indelibly associated with the company since that time as actor, writer, director and Artistic Director.
To mark this anniversary, the blog will be running a weekly feature highlighting each year's significant achievements and events relating to Alan Ayckbourn alongside notable photos.

60 Years At The SJT: 1957
If life had gone the way Alan Ayckbourn imagined at the age of 16, he would have gone on to become a professional actor. Certainly, it seems unlikely he would ever have imagined becoming a world famous playwright and director nor - even more improbably - that he would be associated with a small Yorkshire seaside town for the next six decades.
As it was, Alan Ayckbourn left his school, Haileybury, at the age of 16 in 1955 with the intention of becoming a professional actor. During the next two years, he worked with theatre impresario Donald Wolfit at the Edinburgh Festival and worked at the Connaught Theatre in Worthing and Leatherhead Theatre Club.
Then in April 1957, a friend took him to London to see Studio Theatre Ltd performing at the Mahatma Gandhi Hall. It was a turning point in the young actor's life.
Studio Theatre Ltd was a company created by Stephen Joseph to promote theatre-in-the-round and new writing. Founded in Scarborough in 1955, the company performed on Sundays in London in a bid to attract interest in the company, ideally with the hope of finding a base in the city.
Alan Ayckbourn (back row, second from left) with the Library
Theatre company in 1957 with Stephen Joseph (front row, far
right). Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
The play was the UK premiere of Sartre's Huis Clos (In Camera) and Alan was captivated by theatre-in-the-round. After the performance, his friend, Rodney Wood, revealed that he had been offered a job as stage manager with the company in Scarborough for the summer and he asked Alan if he would like to join him.
Alan agreed - despite not even knowing where Scarborough was ("Oh, it’s somewhere up there, you know. You go up to York and you turn right," he recalls being told). He arrived in Scarborough in June 1957 and was immediately taken with the town.
"I remember I got off the train packed with holidaymakers and this bracing air and smell of chips. I said, 'Wow!' Because I was an inland child living in north Sussex, one of the great treats as a child was a trip to the seaside - so, dear reader, I bought the sweet shop. I came to the seaside and stayed. I thought, 'This can't get better'."
Alan was employed as an acting stage manager - that is an assistant stage manager with some acting responsibilities. He worked on all of the summer shows that season beginning with stage-managing The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams.
Alan Ayckbourn (right) as Eric Birling in An Inspector Calls.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
His first acting role was as Eric Birling in a production of J.B. Priestley's An Inspector Calls and he followed it up with a role as Jack Bensted in Catherine Prynn's world premiere The Ornamental Hermit.
Alan Ayckbourn & Clive Goodwin in The Ornamental Hermit.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
Although he did not receive any notice in reviews for An Inspector Calls, he was mentioned in several reviews for The Ornamental Hermit including The Times, which noted: "Mr Alan Ayckbourn at the end gave a lively account of a young country-bred poet of an engaging dishevelment."
With regards to Stephen Joseph - who Alan regards as the most influential person and single most important mentor in his life - Alan did not meet him until well into the season and then in the most unexpected of ways.
Stage managing in 1957 - Alan Ayckbourn and John Smith.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
"I was on the lighting by then, now working this dimmer board, which was very, very rudimentary and had these vicious slider dimmers that sparked and often gave you quite nasty shocks! I was doing a blackout with my arm across the top of them, trying to pull all seven down in sync - so that there was a blackout on stage. And I was suddenly aware of this huge man standing behind me, staring. And I said, ‘Excuse me, sir. I’m sorry this is a restricted area. Professional people working here.’ And he said, ‘There’s a good way to do that you know?’ I said, ‘eh?’ ‘A better way than you’re doing it,’ he said, ‘You’re going to miss a dimmer one day.’ I said, ‘oh, yes, and he said, ‘look, let me show you.’ I said ‘Just excuse me, I’m just about to start the first scene’ and I brought the lights all up again and he said, ‘no, no, what you need is a piece of wood,’ and he handed me a piece of wood and he said, “now lay it across the top of the dimmers and now we pull it down and there you have it. Instant blackout.’ And I said, ‘You’ve just blacked out the scene!’ And I could hear the actors blundering around in the dark and I whipped the lights up again and then they all came out through the curtains afterwards and they, ‘What the hell went on there!? My great speech!’ And I said, ‘this great big man came and did all the…’ - I was like Stan Laurel and he said, ‘Oh, that’ll be Stephen.’ And that was my introduction to Stephen Joseph and we struck up a sort of friendship after that."
At the end of the summer season, Alan left Scarborough and joined the Oxford Playhouse for the winter season. He was not to know it at the time, but he would be back in Scarborough the next year and for many more years to come.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Preview of 2017

Following on from our review of 2016, we take a peek at some of the Ayckbourn treats coming in 2017.

> As always, 2017 will see the world premiere of a new Alan Ayckbourn play at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough. Details are expected to be announced soon, but expect the 81st play to be premiered during the summer at the SJT.
> This will be paired with the revival of a classic Ayckbourn from the 1970s which promises to be a real treat for Ayckbourn fans. Both plays at the SJT will, of course, be directed by Alan Ayckbourn himself.
> Outside of Scarborough and last year's acclaimed revival of Henceforward... is touring out from the Stephen Joseph Theatre. Directed by Alan Ayckbourn and starring Bill Champion, Jacqueline King, Laura Matthews, Nigel Hastings and Jessie Hart, this will be visiting Guildford, Northampton, Cambridge and Windsor. Details can be found at www.alanayckbourn.net.
> Don't be surprised if the playwright pulls something else special out of the bag this year to mark the 60th anniversary of him joining the Library Theatre company (now the Stephen Joseph Theatre) in Scarborough in 1957.
> On Alan Ayckbourn's website, we'll be celebrating the 60th anniversary of Alan joining the Scarborough company with a weekly look every Friday on this blog at the significant events of each year the playwright has been working in the town.
> It's also the 50th anniversary of the death of Alan Ayckbourn's single most influential mentor, Stephen Joseph, in October and it would be a surprise not to see this marked in some way.
> Outside of Scarborough and Pitlochry festival Theatre will continue its annual tradition of an Ayckbourn  play with a revival of the classic Absurd Person Singular between June and October. Also expect news of a major end-of-year Ayckbourn revival to be announced in the coming months.
> This year is also likely to see the production rights for a raft of Ayckbourn plays to be released including The Karaoke Theatre Company, Consuming Passions and Miss Yesterday, so another good year for amateur companies looking for new Ayckbourn works.
> Speaking of amateur companies, Dick & Lottie - the UK's only amateur company dedicated to Alan Ayckbourn's plays - will once again be offering a challenging slate this year with the 'chance' plays. During the course of the year, the Huddersfield based company will be presenting Roundelay, Sisterly Feelings and It Could Be Any One Of Us - all being performed as intended with the chance element intact. Further details can be found at www.dickandlottie.co.uk.
> Although details have not been announced, there will also be at least one UK Ayckbourn tour of a classic Ayckbourn play - expect more news soon.
> Other anniversaries this year include the 50th anniversary of the West End premiere of Relatively Speaking and the 25th anniversary of the world premiere of Time Of My Life.

Expect a lot more Ayckbourn news this year which we'll be carrying on the blog and at www.alanayckbourn.net.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

News & Listings: 3 January 2017

Ayckbourn Plays This Week & Coming Soon
19 - 28 January: Henceforward... at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford (directed by Alan Ayckbourn)

News Round Up:
> Happy New Year from Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website. You'll see we have a title change for the new year with this regular blog now being called News & Listings. As always, we'll be publishing every Monday with all the latest news and what's on listings for the week(s) ahead.
> For those who enjoy the more historical aspects of the blog, we're still going to of a weekly feature but this will be published every Friday. 2017 marks the 60th anniversary of Alan Ayckbourn joining the Library Theatre in Scarborough and, each week, we'll be looking at some of Alan's achievements every year since joining. The first entry can be read this Friday on the blog.
> The end-stage UK tour of Alan Ayckbourn's acclaimed revival of Henceforward... begins on 19 January at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford. It will also be visiting the Royal & Derngate, Northampton, the Theatre Royal Windsor and Cambridge Arts Theatre during February and full details of the tour can be found at www.sjt.uk.com.

Sponsoring A Play On Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website
If you have a favourite Ayckbourn play, there's opportunity to be associated with it via Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website. Every Play on the site is open to sponsorship for a nominal fee - to help with the costs of running the website and domain costs - and which gives the sponsor (individuals only, not businesses) a credit on every page relating to the specific play. You can find out more about sponsoring a play and which plays are still available by clicking here.